• Beast Mode Engage: Davey Johnson's seen a change in Michael Morse over the last ten games or so, starting with the Nationals' trip to Houston to take on the Astros in the first three of ten games on their most-recent road trip. Over that stretch, the Nats' 30-year-old middle of the order slugger has hit four doubles and four home runs including last night's grand slam while posting a .317/.341/.707 line in 44 plate appearances. "He started really getting in a more aggressive hitting mode," Johnson said, "Really hitting off the fastball better. He was more or less defending on the fastball and hitting more breaking stuff. Last year he was real aggressive on hitting the fastball, getting it out front. He got jammed on the pitch before [the grand slam], broke his bat and then [Johan Santana] came back and threw him a ball out over the plate and he crushed it. He's got tremendous power, but the whole first half of what he was here was like 70% of what he was last year. But he's in a good spot right now. The whole middle of the lineup is in a good spot, and that's why we've been scoring a lot of runs."
The Nationals as a team have a .261/.317/.428 line against left-handers this year. Mets' lefty Jon Niese is (2-0) in five starts and 30.2 IP against the Nats in his career, with 6 walks (1.76 BB/9), 32 Ks (9.39 K/9), a 2.93 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and .248 BAA vs New York's divisional rivals from Washington. Bryce Harper has the night off, Davey Johnson told reporters he'd informed Harper of that last night, but the rest of the middle of the order thunder is in place for game two of three in D.C.
• Here's the lineup Niese will face tonight:
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 18, 2012
#Nats 8/18 Lineup: Werth CF, Espinosa 2B, Zim 3B, Morse RF, LaRoche 1B, Desmond SS, Moore LF, Flores C, Jackson RHP